Council closes carpark to campers

Council’s carpark off Lewis Street has been closed to caravanners and campers due to the risks associated with the area becoming overcrowded.

Cobar Shire Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko made a decision last week to close the council car park (behind the council building) to caravan campers.

Temporary fencing was erected in the carpark last Thursday with signs reading ‘No camping on this site. Due to the inappropriate actions of previous caravanners this site is no longer available for use.’

The back of the council carpark (off Lewis Street) has unofficially been a parking spot for free campers passing through town for some time.

Mr Vlatko said council had, up until now, tolerated caravanners and campers parking there.

“It’s a carpark and not a camping ground,” Mr Vlatko told The Cobar Weekly.

“It had started being abused by the number of caravans that were parking there, in terms of they were cramming in next to each other and it became a risk factor.

“There had also been some inappropriate behavior and, so on that basis, I had no choice but to shut it down,” he said.

According to NSW Planning, councils are encouraged to be proactive in preventing illegal camping.

The reasons for this include: if inadequate facilities are provided or the standard of operation is unsatisfactory, the health and safety of campers will not be assured. This may be especially so in relation to fire safety.

NSW Planning advises the use of an illegal caravan park or camping ground may cause disturbance to adjoining land users. This disturbance may be associated with noise, scattering of rubbish, or inadequate toilet facilities or provision for greywater disposal.

Mr Vlatko said in addition to council staff using the carpark, the area is also used by trucks making deliveries to the adjacent supermarket.

He said the increasing number of caravans parking in the carpark was making it difficult for the trucks to get in and out.

Mr Vlatko said it was the overcrowding, that council could not control, that was the main reason for the closure to campers.

He said Cobar has a wonderful caravan park which they can use, they can park at the Cobar sign and also at other rest stops.

Mr Vlatko said council would also be revisiting free camping options at the Newey.

“It’s still on the agenda.

“The matter has taken too long to be decided, but that’s because it’s been due to a lack of council resources.”

Mr Vlatko expects the matter will again go out for community consultation and feedback.

The Services Club (right next door to council’s carpark) which has been hosting free campers on their abandoned bowling greens for a few years, is happy to accommodate the increasing number of free campers passing through town.

The club’s secretary/manager Linda Carter said after the council carpark closed last week, the club made more space available to campers.

“They’ve been using the second green which is not all weather (it has clay soil and it can’t be used if it’s wet), but it’s been fine this week” Linda said.

“We’re in the process of getting a quote to make it more user friendly for campers, to level it out and widen the gate.

“That’s going to be a cost to the club but at the moment, our main customers coming into the club are our campers and travellers.

“We don’t want to see them just pass through town because they do support the town and the club,” she said.

“It’s a needed service.

“We have toilets but we don’t have power or showers.

“Most of them are self-contained anyway.

“We don’t charge, but many do make a donation and they support the club and also support the town.

“We’ve got some tourist information here from the museum, we can tell them where to go and have a look at things, where they can dump their grey water and where they can shop.

“If anyone says they don’t spend money in town, I beg to differ. They support the club through the bar and restaurant and I’ve seen them coming back with shopping bags from the supermarket and the local shops.

“They like the location, they can walk to shops, come in for a punt, a meal and have a drink as they don’t have to drive home.

“I’d estimate that 99.9 per cent of the visitors are appreciative of having a central place to stay.”